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Timeline in American Jewish History

1500 | 1600 | 1700 | 1800 | 1850 | 1900 | 1950 | 2000


Joachim Gaunse (Ganz) lands on Roanoke Island; a year later he departs


Holland captures Pernambuco, Brazil from the Portuguese and invites Jewish settlement. A significant Jewish community develops in Recife.
Solomon Franco remains in Boston for a brief period until "warned out".
Portugal recaptures Brazil and expels Jews and Protestants. While most Jews return to Holland, a boatload of twenty-three Jews sails into New Amsterdam.
Jews win the right to settle in New Amsterdam and establish a Jewish community.
New Amsterdam has an organized Jewish community.
The English conquer New Amsterdam and rename it New York
Newport Jews buy a cemetery but there is no permanent community


New York Jews build their first synagogue, Shearith Israel.
Savannah has an organized Jewish community. It does not become a permanent community until the 1790s.
The British Plantation Act offers Jews a limited form of citizenship.
Philadelphia Jewry has a cemetery and conducts services
The last time Portuguese is used in the official records of Shearith Israel, New York
Newport has an organized Jewish community.
Charleston, South Carolina, has an organized Jewish community.
New York Jewry has an all-day school
Philadelphia Jewry has an organized Jewish community.
Montreal has an organized Jewish community.
Newport builds its first synagogue.
The British colonies in North America emerge as the United States of America.
New York State emancipates Jews.
Richmond has an organized Jewish community.
Philadelphia Jewry establishes the first immigrant aid society in the United States.
Charleston, South Carolina, Jewry establishes its first social welfare organization.
The Northwest Territory Act offers Jews equality in all future territories and states.
The United States Constitution is adopted by a majority of the states. Under federal laws – but not state laws – Jews are given full rights.
The Bill of Rights becomes part of the Constitution. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion.
Dr. Levi Myers of Georgetown, South Carolina is the first Jew to serve in a state legislature.


Charleston, South Carolina, establishes the first American Jewish orphan care society.
The first United States Ashkenazic synagogue, Rodeph Shalom, is established in Philadelphia
Rebecca Gratz helps organize the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society.
Charleston, South Carolina, Jewry organizes the first Reform Jewish religious group in the United States, the Reformed Society of Israelites.
Mordecai Manuel Noah proposes the founding of a Jewish colony on Grand Island, New York.
Isaac Leeser, the father of American modern Orthodoxy, becomes the hazzan-minister-rabbi of the Congregation Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia.
Substantial numbers of German Jews begin immigrating to the United States.
The first Passover Haggadah is printed in America and published by S.H. Jackson.
Rebecca Gratz establishes the first Jewish Sunday school in the United States in Philadelphia. It is Orthodox.
Abraham Rice, the first diplomate rabbi to officiate in America, takes office in Baltimore.
American Jews protest the persecution of Jews in Damascus.
Leo Merzbacher, Max Lilienthal, Isaac Meyer Wise, Bernhard Felsenthal, David Einhorn, Samuel Adler, and other German rabbis come to America to serve the new German congregations and are active in promoting reforms in Judaism.
Charleston's Beth Elohim becomes the first permanent Reform Jewish synagogue in the United States.
David Levy Yulee is the first Jew to serve in Congress and also to become a United States senator.
Isaac Leeser, hazzan of the Sephardic synagogue of Philadelphia, publishes the Occident a strong advocate of Orthodoxy.
B'nai B'rith a mutual aid and fraternal order, is established.
Isaac Mayer Wise, the organizer of the American Jewish Reform movement, comes to the United States from Bohemia.


The first East European congregation in New York City is organized.
Isaac Leeser publishes an English translation of the Bible.
Isaac Mayer Wise becomes rabbi of Congregation B'nai Yeshurun in Cincinnati, where he remains until his death. He begins to publish the Israelite, later the American Israelite.
David Einhorn, a theological liberal, arrives in the United States.
Rabbi Isaac M. Wise calls a meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, to organize American Jewry religiously on a national scale. It is unsuccessful.
In November the Board of Delegates of American Israelites is organized, the first attempt by American Jews to create an overall national Jewish organization.
The Jews of the United States meet in several towns, protesting the action of the papal authorities who seized Edgar Mortara, a Jewish child, and reared him as a Catholic.
Morris Raphall becomes the first rabbi to open a session of the United States Congress with prayer.
At least three Union officers of Jewish origin are breveted generals during the Civil War.
The United States government appoints army chaplains to serve Jews.
Judah P. Benjamin, formerly a United States senator, is appointed secretary of state of the Confederacy.
On December 17, General U.S. Grant expels some Jews from the area occupied by the Army of Tennessee on the charge that they engaged in commercial traffic with the South. The expulsion decree, General Orders Number 11, is speedily revoked by Lincoln.
Samuel Gompers, the founder of the American Federation of Labor, lands in New York.
Jacob H. Schiff, later a national Jewish leader, arrives in New York from Germany.
Isaac Leeser establishes Maimonides College, a short-lived rabbinical school.
A group of Reform rabbis under the leadership of Samuel Hirsch and David Einhorn meets in Philadelphia to publish the first statement on the Jewish Reform position in America.
Hazofeh B'eretz Hahadashah, the first Hebrew weekly in America, is published.
The Union of American Hebrew Congregations is established in Cincinnati. Its founders hope to embrace all American synagogues.
The Hebrew Union College is established in Cincinnati, Ohio, to prepare rabbis for all types of American Jewish synagogues.
Felix Adler creates the Ethical Culture movement.
New Hampshire is the last state to offer Jews political equality.
Joseph Seligman is refused admission to the Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga Springs, New York.
The Union of American Hebrew Congregations publishes the first census of American Jewry. Estimate: 250,000
The pogroms in Russia impel East European Jews to immigrate to the United States in large numbers.
A Yiddish play is performed in New York City.
The Pittsburgh Platform is adopted by a number of left-wing Reform rabbis.
Kasriel H. Sarasohn launches Tageblatt , the first Yiddish daily paper, in New York City.
The Jewish Theological Seminary Association is formed
The Conservative movement is established in New York
The Jewish Theological Seminary, the nursery of Conservative Judaism opens in New York City.
The Jewish Publication Society of American is founded.
Several anti-Semitic works are published in New York City.
Socialists establish the United Hebrew Trades in New York City.
Rabbi Jacob Joseph is elected chief rabbi of New York's Orthodox. He accomplishes little, if anything.
The Central Conference of American Rabbis – basically a Reform institution – is established by Isaac M. Wise.
Baron Maurice de Hirsch, European philanthropist, establishes the Baron de Hirsch Fund to further American Jewry, especially the East European émigrés.
The American Jewish Historical Society starts its work.
The Educational Alliance, a settlement house, opens on New York City's Lower East Side.
The National Council of Jewish Women is founded.
The Jewish Chautauqua Society is organized.
The Central Conference of American Jewish Rabbis rejects the authority of halakhah, Jewish traditional oral law.
The first American yeshiva of a European type (Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary) is founded in New York City.
At a meeting of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Rabbi Isaac M. Wise denounces the new Zionism of Theodor Herzl.
The socialist Jewish Daily Forward publishes its first issue in New York City.
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America is established.
The Federation of American Zionists is established in New York City.
The National Conference of Jewish Charities is organized. American Jewish Yearbook begins publication.


The Arbeter Ring (Workmen's Circle), dedicated to educational, social, and recreational purposes, commences its activities.
East European labor groups organize the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union.
The Rabbinical Assembly, the organization of Conservative rabbis, is established.
The Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada is formed.
Solomon Schechter is elected head of the Jewish Theological Seminary. He furthers Conservatism as a separate Jewish denomination.
Reacting to the murder of Jews in Kishinev, Russia, American Jewry moves to become a more tightly knit community.
Kaufmann Kohler is elected president of the Hebrew Union College.
The twelve-volume Jewish Encyclopedia is completed.
The American Jewish Committee, a secular defense organization, is established by the American Jewish elite.
Jewish students at Harvard establish the Menorah Society, a cultural organization.
During this year 153,748 Jewish immigrants arrive in the United States; most are East Europeans.
Rabbi Stephen S Wise establishes the Free Synagogue.
Sidney Hillman arrives in the United States. Later he becomes a famous leader and a prominent New Deal politician.
Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning is chartered in Philadelphia as a graduate school awarding a Ph.D. degree.
Gifts from Jacob H. Schiff lead to the establishment of Jewish teachers' training programs at the Jewish Theological Seminary and the Hebrew Union College.
The Kehillah (Jewish community) of New York City is established. This is an unsuccessful attempt to organize New York City's East European Jews. Judah L. Magnes is its head.
The Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) is formed.
The first Yiddish secular school system is established by the socialist Zionists, Poale Zion.
American Jewry succeeds in inducing Congress to abrogate the 1832 treaty with Russia because the czarist regime would not honor an American passport carried by an American Jew.
A fire in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory costs the lives of some 140 women. Most were Jews.
Louis Marshall, one of America's most distinguished Jewish laymen, becomes the president of the American Jewish Committee.
Young Israel is organized on the Lower East Side in New York.
Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, is established by Henrietta Szold.
The B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation League sets out to limit anti-Jewish agitation in the United States.
Labor Zionist Alliance (formerly Farband Labor Zionist Order) is established.
The Intercollegiate Menorah Association is organized.
The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism is organized.
The Promised Land by Mary Antin is published. It is an immigrant's evaluation of the United States.
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee unites various American Jewish ethnic groups to salvage East European Jewry.
Leo Frank is lynched in Marietta, Georgia.
Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and Yeshiva Etz Chaim (an Orthodox elementary school) are united under Bernard Revel.

Moses Alexander, a German Jewish immigrant, is elected governor of Idaho.

Henry Hurwitz edits the Menorah Journal.
Louis D. Brandeis is appointed to the US Supreme Court.
An English translation of the Hebrew Bible is published by the Jewish Publication Society of America.

United States enters World War I. About 200,000 Jews served in the armed forces.

The National Jewish Welfare Board is created to serve the religious needs of American Jews in the army and navy.

The British government issues the Balfour Declaration favoring the establishment of a homeland for Jews in Palestine.

On November 7 the Bolsheviks gain control of Russia.

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, serving the Jewish and general press, is established.
The first American Jewish Congress meets in Philadelphia and sets out to induce the great powers meeting in Paris to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine and to protect East European Jewry through the granting of minority rights.

Yiddish Art Theater is initiated by Maurice Schwartz.

The Women's League for Conservative Judaism is formed.
These years are a time of much anti-Jewish sentiment in the United States. Most notable is the anti-Jewish activity of Henry Ford, 1920-27.
Henry Ford's Dearborn Independent begins publishing anti-Semitic propaganda, including the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Hadoar (Hebrew Periodical of Histadruth Ivrith) begins publication. It emphasizes the primacy of Hebrew in Jewish culture.
1921, 1924
The Immigrant Act of 1921 and 1924 close America to East European Jews and others. This legislation is motivated, in part, by pseudo-scientific racial concepts.
Reconstructionism, created by Mordecai Kaplan, creates its first organized manifestation, the Society for the Advancement of Judaism.

Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox organization, is established.

A permanent American Jewish Congress representing the Zionist-minded East European element is founded.

Hebrew Theological College opens in Chicago.

Stephen S. Wise founds the Jewish Institute of Religion, training rabbis (mostly for the Reform group) with a more national orientation than that given by Hebrew Union College.
The first B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation is established at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.
The Synagogue Council of America is organized.
The World Union for Progressive Judaism is founded.
A survey shows that there are Jews in 9,712 towns and rural districts. There are 4,228,000 Jews, 17,500 Jewish organizations, 3,118 congregations in the United States.
The National Conference of Christians and Jews is established to further interfaith activities in the United States.

The Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Yeshiva grows into Yeshiva College, the first general institution of higher education under Jewish auspices.
The Union of Sephardic Congregations is organized.

The American Academy for Jewish Research is established.

The Jewish Agency is enlarged to embrace Zionists and non-Zionists to further the Jewish community in Palestine.
In the late 1930s German Jewish refugees start arriving in the United States.
The Council of Jewish Federations is established. It advises two hundred Jewish Federations in the US and Canada.
Nazis gain strength in Germany and anti-Semitic groups appear in this country.
The Jewish Labor Committee is established.

Judaism as a Civilization by Mordecai Kaplan is published and the Reconstructionist magazine appears.
The Central Conference of American Rabbis is taken over by Zionists in a political coup, one of the first steps toward the founding of neo-Reform.

The Rabbinical Council of America, an organization of the English-speaking Orthodox rabbis, is formed.
A survey shows 4,771,000 Jews in the United States and 3,728 congregations.

The Central Conference of American Rabbis adopts a somewhat pro-Zionist program.
Father Charles E. Coughlin, a Catholic Priest, denounces the Jews on the radio. His audience numbers in the millions.

In July an international conference meets at Évian to help refugee Jews. Very little is accomplished.
The British White Paper on Palestine is issued and immigration to that country is reduced to a trickle. World War II begins in Europe and the first news of the slaughter of the Polish Jews reaches America.

Felix Frankfurter becomes an associate justice of the US Supreme Court.

The United Jewish Appeal is founded to support Jewish humanitarian programs in the United States and abroad.

The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research moves from Vilna, Lithuania, to New York City.

The Jewish Reconstuctionist Foundation is formed by Mordecai Kaplan.
Over five hundred thousand Jews serve in the American armed forces during World War II. There are numerous Jewish generals and several Jewish admirals.
American Zionists adopt the Biltmore Program, demanding the creation of a Jewish Palestine.

Jews in the United States become aware of the massacre of Jews in Eastern Europe by the invading Germans.

Some anti-Zionist Reform rabbi's and anti-Zionist laymen organize the American Council for Judaism, the one organization in American life that upholds the position that the Jews are only a religious group and in no way a nationalist group.
The American Jewish Conference recommends that Palestine become a Jewish commonwealth.

Jews become aware of the Holocaust. The American authorities, including high-ranking Jewish leaders, do little to induce Roosevelt to admit European Jewish refugees in substantial numbers to the United States. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr. is an exception.

The Central Conference of American Rabbis adopts a resolution agreeing that both the Zionist and anti-Zionist positions are compatible with Reform Judaism.

Samuel Belkin becomes the president of Yeshiva College.

Maurice N. Eisendrath becomes the president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.
President Roosevelt establishes the War Refugee Board.

The National Society of Hebrew Day Schools (Torah Umesorah) is founded.
Yeshiva College become Yeshiva University.

The United States unleashes the atom bomb on the Japanese. Jews are among the nuclear scientists who perfect the atom, hydrogen, and neutron bombs.
Under directives of President Truman, hundreds of thousands of displaced persons are admitted to the United States; many are Jews.
The Jewish Museum of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America moves into the former Warburg mansion in New York City.

On November 29 the United Nations General Assembly votes to divide Palestine into two sovereign states, one Jewish and one Arab.

The American Jewish Archives is established on the campus of Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati.
Brandeis University is established in Waltham, Mass, as the first secular university in the United States under Jewish auspices.

On May 14 Israel declares its independence. The United States government immediately recognizes the new state.

On May 15 the British leave Palestine; the Arab armies soon attack Israel.


The Hebrew Union College and the Jewish Institute of Religion merge.

The major Reform organization, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, is moved from Cincinnati to New York City.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn succeeds his father-in-law as rebbe of the Lubavitch Hassidim.

The Federal Republic of Germany signs an agreement to pay Holocaust survivors and Jewish institutions outside Israel $822 million as reparations for the Holocaust.
Stern College for Women, first liberal arts women's college under Jewish auspices, is opened.
The Leo Baeck Institute is established in New York City.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, one of American Jewry's most powerful organizations, is formed.
Statistics in the American Jewish Year Book show a great increase in Jewish synagogue membership in the previous fifteen years, particularly in the Reform and Conservative groups, and a great increase in Jewish religious school attendance.

Israel, provoked by Arab marauders, invades Egyptian territory and is joined by England and France, but all withdraw their forces under United States and Soviet pressure.
Congress passes the Civil Rights Act that, on paper at least, fully guarantees all rights to blacks and Jews.
An Immigration and Nationality Act is passed. The quota system is revised, but the admission of immigrants is still rigorously limited.
Israel emerges victorious from the Six-Day War against Arab enemies.
The Reconstuctionist Rabbinical College is established.
The Association for Jewish Studies is formed.
Touro College is founded in New York City.
The Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion ordains the first woman rabbi, Sally Priesand.
The Yom Kippur War begins when Egypt and Syria attack Israel. Israel again emerges victorious.
The United Nations General Assembly declares Zionism "a form of racism and racial discrimination."
Israel and Egypt sign a peace treaty.
The Jewish Theological Seminary faculty votes to ordain women as rabbis.
The Central Conference of American Rabbis adopts a resolution accepting the principle of patrilineal identity.
The U.S.S.R. falls apart. Numerous Russian Jews immigrate to the United States.
The Israelis and Palestinian Arabs seek to reconcile their political differences.
The opening of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, and the release of the popular film Schindler's List by Steven Spielberg heighten public awareness of the Holocaust throughout the United States.
Death of Menahem Mendel Schneerson, seventh Lubavitcher rebbe, who spread his movement across the United States and the world. His demise heightens messianic fervor among some of his followers, while the Lubavitch movement continues to grow.
New "Statement of Principles for Reform Judaism" invites Reform Jews to engage in a dialogue with tradition and calls for renewed attention to mitzvot, sacred obligations.


Senator Joseph Lieberman nominated for the vice-presidency on the Democratic Party ticket, the first Jew ever to be nominated for this post by a major political party. The ticket wins a plurality of the votes, but loses the election.
September 11th terrorist attacks spread fear through the Jewish community leading to heightened security and a renewed sense of patriotism.
Surveys point to a decline in America's Jewish population, the first since the colonial era.
Jews celebrate 350 years of American Jewish history.